Monday, December 8, 2014

HOLIDAY STORIES: WHITE CHRISTMAS



The month of December has traditionally been a month I've used as a break. I usually don't do much beyond holiday stories. This year it's been a bit different, I've not published my blog on it's regular schedule for several months. I've desperately needed the extra time to just be, healing time in mind and body with no deadlines. This year I've also been working and while it's a blessing to work from home rather than go out to a job, still, it more hours than I've been used to working and it takes its toll. But, my blog should be back on it's normal schedule in January.
I'll be mostly offline today and tomorrow as my office computer will be in the shop getting updated and programs revamped. My poor laptop is down and hopefully we'll have it resurrected soon. 
I thought I'd reprise a Christmas story written by a friend. It's one I really like because it's one about finding faith again. White Christmas, by Simon Garte, tells the story of a soldier at war, raised an atheist and what changed it all for him.
                                          ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


It was not a white Christmas that year. At least not for him. He was in a land that had never seen snow. Rain, yes - lots of rain. But no snow. In fact it was raining that Christmas morning. He was sitting by himself in the rain. Alone. The camp was almost empty. He had volunteered to stay since he wasn't a Christian.
Not then.
And also Snake eyes had asked him to stay. That weird thing had happened two days earlier, when he had been sitting alone in the rain, just like now. Snake eyes had come up to him and started talking. Snake eyes hated him, so that was already weird.
“Hey man” Snake eyes said.
“Hey.”
“I need a stabber for Christmas.”
He looked up at Snake eyes dark, inscrutable face.
“Me?” He asked.
“Yeah you. Abdul can’t make it and all the other brothers and crackers are going to that thing down river. But I figgered, you bein a atheist or a Jew, or whatever the f-ck you are, maybe you want to do it.”
He thought about it. He had never done this before, never been asked to.
“OK” he said.
Now he was waiting in the rain for Snake eyes. “It’s Christmas” he thought to himself. His father, a committed atheist, refused to have a tree or any decorations in the house. The family had always exchanged presents on New Year’s day. Christmas meant nothing to him.
Nothing good.
An hour later, he and Snake eyes were walking north on the trail. They were soldiers, and there was a war, but they were not fighting. They hadn't been fighting for months. There was no point to it.
When they got to a place that Snake eyes recognized, he pointed into the jungle, and the white boy left the trail. He found himself a position with a good sight of the trail and Snake eyes. He rested the M1 on a branch, and settled down to wait. The rain stopped and then started again. Snake eyes was sitting in the mud of the trail.

The two kids in black pajamas came down the trail smiling and laughing. They were the “enemy”, but had been doing business with the platoon for a long time. One of them carried a large sack, the other an old rifle of some kind. The kid with the rifle went into the jungle on the opposite side of the trail from where the white soldier was crouched, and that left Snake eyes and the kid with the sack standing on the trail. Snake eyes started talking to the kid. They were smiling and laughing. At first. But then the kid started saying something that Snake eyes didn't seem to like. Snake eyes began raising his voice, and the words came through the thick jungle to him sitting with his M1.

“That’s bulls-it, man. That is bulls-it. What the fu-k are you saying?”

The kid answered, but too quietly to be heard. Finally he shook his head, and put down the sack. Snake eyes reached behind him and took out a small stack of bills from his rucksack. The kid took the money and then grabbed the bag and began running.

“Fu-k”, shouted Snake eyes, “shoot the mother.”

He raised the M1 and fired a round which went wild, and then he saw that Snake eyes was down.

“Snake eyes”. He yelled. No response. Except for the rain it was quiet. He scanned the jungle on the opposite side of the trail, and saw nothing, but lay down a lot of fire. Then he ran to the trail. Snake eyes was alive, but there was a hole in his chest and blood was mixing with mud all over.

“Fu-k it man. Its Christmas, I don wanna die on Christmas.”

And then he did.
The white soldier tried carrying the body back, but only got a few yards. He dragged the body into the jungle a couple of feet, and then headed down the trail. His mind was blank. At the camp, he went into his tent and lay down. The chopper had not returned from the party yet, and he still had a couple of hours of solitude left.

The angel appeared as a dark haired, blue eyed young girl of about fifteen. She was dressed in pure white, and she stood in the center of the tent. He knew it was a dream. The angel spoke in a foreign language, but he understood it, as if he were reading the subtitles at a foreign movie. She said this to him,

“Your sufferings will be intense, but the Lord loves you. Never forget this.”

Many decades later, he had forgotten those intense sufferings, but he never forgot the dream of the angel standing in white in his tent on that Christmas day.

His white Christmas.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Dr.Simon Garte has published non-fiction and also writes fiction. He's a marvelous storyteller. Simon is a New Yorker currently living on the East Coast. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

MONDAY MUSINGS—WHEN JACK FROST GOES GUERRILLA





This morning my house came under attack from Jack Frost’s guerrilla soldiers with a little help from the Old Man Winter with his north wind. No fanciful painting of frost. These were sprites on steroids. They had out the big gun and pelted ice balls at the house and windows. It was loud enough to wake me up at 4 a.m. wondering what was going on. Even the dog started barking. 

No sunshine and coffee outside this morning. We've got freezing drizzle pellets falling with enough ice accumulation, about an inch and a half, that they closed the schools. Saturday and Sunday it was in the upper 60's and sunny. I had all my windows open to the warm breeze and spent as much time outside soaking up the sunshine as I could. By late Sunday afternoon the wind was rising and the temps dropped over thirty degrees in three hours. Tuesday and Wednesday we'll be back up in the mid 40's and sunshine. This has been a crazy week of weather. But that's Missouri.

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was nice but smaller than usual. Most of our family Thanksgiving meals have a minimum of thirty-five and some years we've had all my siblings and their families, which is considerably more. Those years we do buffet tables set up in Pop’s finished two-car garage (actually he can get a truck and two cars in there). The garage is right off the kitchen so bringing out the food isn't difficult. We decorate and set the tables up along three sides of the garage and seating in the middle. Most Thanksgivings are mild here so we open one of the garage doors to the sunshine and concrete drive with various lawn chairs set up nearby. Lots of room for the kids to play and the adults to sit and gossip.

This year, it was only one of my brothers and his wife, my niece, Deanna, her husband, and their two little ones with my family. We ate inside since there were only 11 of us. Steve baked the prettiest 24 lb turkey I've seen outside of a magazine. He did up the sides to go with it and I did a pork roast and a complete meal with sides. I enjoyed the cooking of it early morning with music playing and my husband and I talking as we working on everything. He was teasing me about how I had everything cut and lined up for each dish prettier than Rachel Ray. I don’t know about that but you do have to keep all the ingredients separated. J

On the home front, we got a lot done during the warm spell. A dark cloud of ‘oh, no’ came to us on Friday afternoon when realized our twenty year old chest freezer wasn't freezing. Acck! So it was a mad dash to transfer what we could to the bottom freezer on the fridge and a quick run to the store to buy ice bags to pack in the freezer. Found another chest freezer, just a little smaller, on clearance, Yay! They couldn't deliver until Monday, boo. Then with this ice and nasty roads that’s been delayed until tomorrow afternoon.


But hey, all things considered, life is still pretty damn good. J   

So, how are things in your neck of the woods? Any news to share? Good movies seen or books read? C’mon, share the gossip. Laughter of it all will make the day less gray.


Meanwhile, me and my cup of coffee will be sitting here, feet propped up in front of a warm fire and supervising the kid and his fiance put up the tree and lights. It's good being boss, lol!

Monday, November 24, 2014

MAY YOU FIND THE QUIET JOY




Turkey and trimmings
Heart of our family
And Pumpkin pie
Nip of wood smoke in the air
Keeping the traditions    
Smiling faces, hugs and love
Grandma’s house
In the kitchen preparations
Viewing the happy circle around the Table
Invoking memories of those gone but never forgotten
New generation of little ones added
Giving heartfelt thanks for the riches in my life—my family and friends


Giving thanks has always been a time of reflection. Taking stock of the good in my life.  It has never been about money or pricey accouterments. It isn't relegated to one day in the year but it's practiced throughout the year and especially when things seem bad.  That's the time I really look for the positives. Negatives are always easy to find and if I look at only negatives it will rob me of inner peace and contentment. So I refocus my heart and simplify my eye to see the things that really matter.

For me, Thanksgiving is so much more than a feast upon the table. It's a reality check.

I realize I have all the important things like my faith, family and good friends, a job that provides food and place to live, and while I may creak and hurt sometimes I am alive and breathing.

Heartfelt thanksgiving is celebrating the simple things and finding contentment in those riches. Contentment breeds quiet joy. 

May you find the quiet joy. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

My guest today is a cowboy loving romance author, Victoria Vane (aka Emery Lee). Slow hand is the first in her western romance series, Hot Cowboy Nights. 
  • Did you try other genres before you hit with this one?
Although many readers still haven’t heard of me, SLOW HAND, the first book in a hot contemporary Western series, is actually my fourteenth published novel. My debut in 2010 was THE HIGHEST STAKES (writing as Emery Lee), a work of romantic historical fiction set in the world of 18th century horseracing. I followed up with a sequel called FORTUNES’S SON, set in the gambling world. In 2012 I made the decision to switch gears and write steamy romance. When A BREACH OF PROMISE found an enthusiastic audience, I decided to stay the course. Over the next two years I published eight more hot historicals (The Devil DeVere series and THE SHEIKH RETOLD). But after three years of writing with critical acclaim but only modest success, I have decided to take a leap- three centuries to be exact!
  • Why this genre instead of another? What excites you about this genre?
I decide to try contemporary romance, as it’s the most popular genre. And since most romance readers gravitate to certain kinds of heroes, I started looking at what readers like best. I then considered which kinds of heroes I was most attracted to. The answer was a no brainer for me- cowboys. I've loved them my entire life. I’d just never thought to write about them, but as a lifelong horse lover, it only made sense.
I’m most excited about this adventure as I think I bring a new twist to the genre. While cowboy romances are certainly nothing new to readers, each of my stories has a unique tone and theme. In all four books (SLOW HAND, ROUGH RIDER, SHARP SHOOTER and SILVER TONGUE) my heroes are modern day cowboys facing very real and relatable struggles. Wade (SLOW HAND) is burning the candle at both ends between a rural law practice and a struggling family ranch. His brother Dirk (ROUGH RIDER) is a former bull rider, rancher and wounded vet. Reid (SHARP SHOOTER) is also a vet, a marine and back-country hunting guide. Keith (SILVER TONGUE) is a Native American struggling between two vastly different worlds.

These stories are all hot and sexy but still have well developed plots and emotional depth.

Although this new endeavor marks a distinct departure from historical romance, readers will find that my trademarks still remain—well researched, scorching hot, emotionally compelling, character-driven stories. 
  • How much do current events play into your writing?
Very much! That’s what I feel makes this series unique. I am a true research geek so most of my story ideas have sprung from things that I read. In setting my series in contemporary Montana and Wyoming, I began following various local newspaper and my stories grew out of news reports that I read.

In SLOW HAND, the two Knowlton brothers are divided over the family ranch. Wade, is increasingly resentful that his law practice is the only thing that’s keeping the ranch afloat, while his brother, Dirk, a wounded vet (ROUGH RIDER) feels the ranch is all he has left. They face the same economic struggles that all ranches are dealing with.

SHARP SHOOTER is truly unique as is features a former marine scout sniper/hunting guide from Wyoming and a wolf biologist as the heroine. At the core of the story is the wolf conservation controversy.

Lastly, SILVER TONGUE takes up another controversial issue - wild mustangs. Most of America is unaware that we currently have almost 50,000 of them stockpiled in government holding facilities which means there are almost twice as many “wild horses” living in captivity than out on the range!
  • What inspired this series or characters?
My characters were very much inspired by real people. Nikki from SLOW HAND shares many experiences from my personal life, while her sister Shelby is an amalgamation of my two sisters. Wade was named after my first cowboy crush! 
  • Do you people watch when you’re out and about? Does this help with creating your own characters.
Yes. Much of my research is people watching. In writing my cowboy characters I tried to tune in closely to both slang and body language. I had a bit of trouble getting a handle on my Native American character in SILVER TONGUE so I turned to films. I've watch about a half dozen movies with genuine NA actors in an effort to nail down this character.
Victoria, thank you for taking time from your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. Wishing you the best with this new endeavor! It's a pleasure to have you visit. 
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Sia. I appreciate the chance to talk about my new contemporary series.

                                                                                                                                                                  


In rural Montana…

Wade Knowlton is a hardworking lawyer who’s torn between his small-town Montana law practice and a struggling family ranch. He’s on the brink of exhaustion from trying to save everybody and everything, when gorgeous Nicole Powell walks into his office. She’s a damsel in distress and the breath of fresh air he needs.

Even the lawyers wear boots…


Nicole Powell is a sassy Southern girl who has officially sworn off cowboys after a spate of bad seeds—until her father’s death sends her to Montana and into the arms of a man who seems too good to be true. Her instincts tell her to high tail it out of Montana, but she can't resist a cowboy with a slow hand…



                                                                                                                                                          

Victoria Vane is a multiple award-winning romance novelist and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her books have received more than twenty reviewer awards and nominations including the 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series. Victoria also writes historical fiction as Emery Lee and is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog.


Monday, November 17, 2014

MONDAY MUSINGS—THE SUN IS SHINING AND ALL IS GOOD IN MY WORLD





The sun is bright and a layer of white blankets the fields and laces the trees. Here and there are flashes of vibrant blues, reds, and mottled golden browns of the birds in trees and shrubs. A huge flock of geese are flying high in the
sunlight as they move to southern wetlands. A large redheaded woodpecker is swinging on the bird feeder. In the pasture shaggy coated horses huddle together, their breath a puff of fog floating about their heads. Steam rises off their coats as the sunlight melts the snow and ice. Chardeen is curled up in a thick network of branches in a nearby tree catnapping in the sun.

In the distance a flash of hunter orange as a hunter weaves in and out around the trees on the adjoining property. This morning there have only been a few shots echoing in the hills. I know at least one bright hunter orange spot is my son moving along our fence lines before dropping out of sight over the hill. So far nothing for him. He’s not a patient hunter and I have to remind him hunting is not like an Xbox game. Real time is a lot of quiet watching and careful moving with the occasional opportunity. Jake is 19 and has only been hunting about 3 years and some years there are deer everywhere and other years they’re few and far between and it all depends upon the pattern of other hunters moving in the surrounding hills as to where the deer will end up. Ah, he’ll learn.

Not a lot of snow, thankfully, maybe a couple of inches or so, but it’s cold. Very cold—single digits, which is unusual for us this time of the year. Normally we’re in the upper 40’s in November. Gee, thanks Canada. Sure wish y’all would learn to keep your door shut and the cold up there.

I've been doing a lot of reading of late. I've read some really good books but I’ll tell you about them in a later post.


So, what’s happening in your neck of the woods this morning?

Friday, November 14, 2014

SALLY ORR—A FASCINATION FOR THE 'GREATER' REGENCY-ERA (hint: it's not the Dukes)



My guest is romance author, Sally Orr. She debuts with a different sort of regency hero—a smart man of vision but not smart enough to stay out of trouble, lol! I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Today I’d like to tell you why I find the greater Regency-era exciting.

My books are not technically a Regency romance. Instead, they would fall under the Regency-era. The formal Regency is when Prince George ruled by proxy because his father, George III, was unable to govern (1811-1820). So the expected Regency romance should take place during these years. However, if you look up Regency-era on Wikipedia, it is defined as a distinct time in British culture and civilization (1795-1837). This era is before the railroads covered the country and before Victoria took the throne.

I find this era exciting, because it falls within the industrial revolution (1760-1840). A time of progress in transportation, steam power, chemicals, gas lighting, manufacture, and standards of living.

So you see I have strayed from the dogma of a Regency Romance. Romances that are usually characterized by having titled characters, like a duke. Regency romances celebrate a time of simple living, balls, carriages, and proper manners. I can easily see the allure of this time period and a duke as a hero, a wealthy, powerful individual with a grand estate. Most of us can imagine finding true love with a man like that, so it’s no surprise that they are the most popular heroes in romance. They are so popular, in fact, that in our modern romance world we have created thousands of dukes. In our fictional London, a large percentage of the people on the streets are dukes. When in reality, a tall, handsome, single, Regency duke (complete with seductive chuckles), is about as rare as rocking horse poo.

If I had the choice to fall in love with either a Regency duke or a man who would invent/discover something significant that laid the foundation of our modern world, I’d choose the inventor. 

Why? If I wrote Medieval romance, I'd choose a duke as a hero, a man who earned the title for service to his king and country. However, very few dukedoms were awarded for merit during the Regency. Arthur Wellesley earned the title of first Duke of Wellington and some others, but most Regency dukes inherited their wealth and title. That does not mean that they are unable to be alluring or seductive heroes—they are. The actions of these heroes in Regency romances are definitely swoon-worthy. 

My hero preference is a reflection of the fact that I'm a nerd girl whose taste in heroes is a little different.

Three years ago, my husband and I took our old Airstream to Las Vegas. One day we toured the Hoover dam. I distinctly remember turning the corner in the visitor center and coming face-to-face with a handsome Regency-era portrait of a man wearing a cravat—Michael Faraday. Now Michael Faraday is my muse, whether scientist or writer. My favorite quote is his response to a young man who asked him the best way to succeed as a man of science. Michael replied, “Work, finish, publish.” Simple, yes, but you have to do all three to meet your goal. Michael’s portrait was at the Hoover dam because he invented the dynamo (the bases for power generators) in his basement laboratory at the Royal Institute of Great Britain on London’s Albemarle Street in 1831-2. 

So if I had to choose my favorite hero, I’d choose someone like Michael. In fact, there are many fabulous Regency romances with these types of heroes. Lisa Kleypas’ Simon Hunt from her first Wallflower book, Secrets of a Summer Night, comes to mind. My hero in The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide, wants to build a foundry to manufacture small steam engines. It is these engines that will in the next couple of decades revolutionize the production of small consumer goods. So in my opinion, heroes like this add a bit more excitement and relevance to my enjoyment of the love story.

  • Are any of your favorite heroes inventors or scientists or discoverers?


                                                                                                

The definitive guide to seduction…

The Rake’s Handbook was written on a dare, and soon took the ton by storm. Now its author, Ross Thornbury, is publicly reviled by the ladies—who are, of course, forbidden to read the handbook—but privately revered by the gentlemen. Unfortunately, Ross’s notoriety is working against him and he flees London painfully aware of the shortcomings of his own jaded heart.

Spirited young widow Elinor Colton lives next to Ross’s country estate. She’s appalled not only by his rakish reputation, but also by his progressive industrial plans. Elinor is sure she is immune to Ross’s seductive ways. But he keeps coming around…impressing her with his vision for England’s future and stunning her with his smiles.

How does one resist the man who wrote the manual on love?

Buy Links

                                                                                                                     


Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it's not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars. Author WebsiteFacebookGoodreads

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG—GETTING THE PATTERN STRAIGHT



  
I've been looking at a manuscript I wrote as the first part of a series several years ago. I really like this story. The quality doesn't fall into the, oh my god, how awful category—those stories are long ago in a galaxy far away, um, that would be in a hidden box. It’s full of old manuscripts written through the years and won’t see the light of day anytime soon. 

I digress. This story has good bones but could be told in a better way. I knew that four years ago, when started editing it. There are two editions both a bit different than the other the original and #2 is from my first pass of edits. It still wasn't quite right. Editing is not my favorite part of writing.

To make it what it needs to be will take some pretty ruthless work. The third file of this story has pieces spread out everywhere. It's kind of like having all the pieces of the fabric for a quilt but no pattern handy to reassemble it so it looks like a quilt and not a stack of bright colors. It's daunting. There are pieces mixed in that aren't necessary in creating the quilt.  


In writing I need to know many things that my reader doesn't. To complicate things more the story starts in the wrong place—cut about 5 chapters and you have the true beginning. I also know the plot needs tweaking. I have the main story and a couple of sub-plots. I need a clearer picture of where I want this story to go. Need to get rid of those things that don't move the story forward and add other scenes that will.


When I look at the mess of pieces it overwhelms me. Where the hell do I start?

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Just as with creating a quilt (which I've done) or any art form  you first have to have a pattern. The base pattern has to be a clear picture in your mind. The shape and scope of it. That clarity determines what sort of accents and in what material and textures are needed to compliment the pattern. Make it pop.



So, I have my answer. I need to start with the pattern (plot). Get a clearer picture of it in my mind and then set out the pieces (chapters and scenes) that fit the pattern and baste them together. I need to decide, once that's done, what will add better texture to the story. Adding more layers of emotion and motivations. Add the contrasts of environment and description to match the picture in my head.

Easy-peasy right? Pfft. Not hardly.

It’s still in pieces and I don’t kid myself about the time involved to take this story from okay to great. Even after I have the pattern clear and the pieces and accents where I want them I know there will be several more editing passes after the beta reads.


But that’s for the future. Right now my focus is on getting the pattern straight. I’ll worry about the rest later.






Bear with me folks, I had a severe allergic reaction Monday evening and I'm still weak and wimpy. I will get around to visit but it will be in ;-) bits and pieces.